Identity humor-A A +A
By Ramon Dacawi
Saturday, January 19, 2013
IF NOT for our short memory and lack of a sense of local history, we would be toasting Cayat and his defense counsel and fellow Igorot, Sinai Hamada, this cold January. It’s for what the two did to push civil rights, specifically for so-called “non-Christian Filipinos” 76 years ago.
It’s in the same token that the civil rights movement in the United States of America annually remembers December 1, 1955. That was the day Rosa Louise McCauley Parks refused to obey a bus driver’s order for her to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger simply because the white passenger section was already full.
On this month and cold season in 1937, Cayat, a fellow with one name like many Igorots then, was booked for having in his possession a bottle of commercial gin. As the laws that then governed the American Indians also applied to the Igorots then, it was unlawful for Cayat to buy, possess or drink commercial intoxicants. After the lower courts meted out and affirmed a verdict of guilty, Hamada, a young Ibaloi lawyer, pleaded and defended Cayat’s innocence until the Supreme Court.
In lieu of a toast of gin to these two who figured in the Igorots’ fight for their rights, I recall the following piece I wrote in 2004 to toast my being Igorot of the Ifugao tribe:
Excitement gripped students from the lowland provinces when some Igorot coeds joined them in their dormitory, their imaginations stirred by what they learned back home about these people of the Cordillera mountains. They ached to validate what they heard about these specimens of a lesser specie whose males were rumored to hide tails under their G-strings and whose ancestors used to sleep on tree tops.
Unable to rein in her curiosity, one made her move when she chanced upon three of the newcomers from the boondocks along the dormitory hallway.
“Taga-Cordillera nga ba kayo?” she asked in her most friendly tone. “Oo,” one of the Igorot girls replied. “Di Igorot din kayo?” “Hindi’ yong mga parents naming ang Igorot.”
Before she could make sense of the retort or notice their cheek turning crimson, the three had already stepped out, leaving her opne-mouthed in stupefaction.
As student government presidents, Manong Vic Laoyan of the University of Baguio, Felix Cabading of Baguio Colleges Foundation and William “Billy” Hamada of St. Louis University attended a student leaders conference on Manila.
The “Baguio” delegation tag on their reserved table caught the attention of a waiter. In no time, he started circling their table, alternately ogling at their behinds and their handsome Igorot faces. Unable to contain his curiosity, the waiter opened his mouth.
“Taga Baguio ba kayo, sirs?,” he asked. “Oo, bakit?” Manong Vic answered. “Marami bang Igorot do’n?” “Gusot mo bang makakita nga Igorot?” Manong Vic countered, trying to figure out what the guy was up to. “Gusto ko nga eh. Marami na akong naririnig tungkol sa kanila, nguni’t di pa ako nakakia ng kahit isa.”
“Nakakita ka na, kanina pang aali-aligid ka,” Manong Vic told the fellow. “Igorot kaming tatlo. Ito si Felix, tribung Kalanguya. Ito naman si Billy, may dugong Ibaloy at Hapon. Ako naman ay Ibaloy. Igorot kaming tatlo.”
“Si sir naman, nagbibiro,” the waiter replied. “Paano naman kayo Igorot e ang guwapo n/yong tatlo. At saka wala namn kayong buntot.”
What Manong Vic didn’t tell me was whether he, being who he is, countered: Ikaw naman, pare, tanga saan ka nga ba?”
Most likely, the story about the Igorot coeds is apocryphal. Like the second, it can cut both ways, like a “hinalong”, the traditional double-bladed Ifugao knife my late Uncle Tayaban used to fashion out towards perfection. One subjected to stereotyping is prone to amnesia triggered by shame. Or respond with anger, pride, reverse discrimination and recrimination.
Whether we admit or deny we’re Igorots by birth, blood, roots, upbringing, and residence or by choice, these stories reveal our own sensitivities and sensibilities. I’ve met some Igorots who, by their language and behavior, give you the impression they believe they’re not, and hope to be identified as Ilocano or Tagalog. Some Ilocanos also give the impression they’re Tagalogs, while some Tagalogs want to proclaim they’re also Igorots.
“Igorot na rin ako, did ba, pare?” a Tagalog friend once told me, his eyes pleading for affirmation. Dahil, I posed. “Dahil,” he said, nakatikim na ako nga iba’t ibang klase nga pinikpikan – manok, pato; pinikpikang baboy at pinikpikang aso.”
At the Igorot International Consultation several years back at the Green Valley Country Club here, the delegates took half a day debating whether they should call themselves “Igorots”, collectively and individually.
As the debates heightened, film-maker Eric de Guia, also known as Kidlat Tahimik, rose and reminded all and sundry: “An Igorot by any other name is just as sweet.”
(e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for comments)
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 19, 2013.